MDF is a popular material to use for a variety of woodworking projects because it is inexpensive, dense, extremely flat, can hold a crisp edge and comes in large sheets for efficient material use. All of these attributes make it desirable for use in cabinetry, shop jigs, and also projects created on a CNC. As with anything, however, there are tradeoffs, and in the case of MDF the downside is that it is ugly. Make that, UGLY. Common woodworking finishes such as stain, penetrating furniture oil, or clear top coats do not provide great options for MDF because the material’s dull personality still remains visible. A great alternative to traditional woodworking finishes is to use paint, as painting MDF will provide an effective mask for the eyesore that lies beneath. Using specialized textured products when painting MDF can even impart a stylized appearance on the project, such as the look of stone or metal.
Some important items to keep in mind when painting MDF include:
Cut quality matters
Selecting table saw blades with the appropriate characteristics for this material will ensure that you achieve crisp edges. You don’t want saw marks showing through your painted surface.
Practice your spray technique before painting MDF
You’ll want to choose a high quality paint can, or even make your own aerosol sprayer, and work on your technique until you are confident that you can feather the overlapping strokes in a way that creates a perfect surface. It’s not rocket science, but it takes some practice on scrap before you are ready to lay down a coat on your masterpiece.
Experiment with different paints
There are many different options available at most home centers that can provide just the right look for your project. Do not get locked in too quickly to just one.